Consumers now expect real-time interactions with brands during big events like the Super Bowl. You can’t predict what will happen, but here’s how to get ready to shine in the Twitterverse on Super Bowl Sunday.

Super Bowl commercials are so 2012. Ever since Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet, the battle of the brands has steadily shifted from the small screen to the Twitterverse. At this point, real-time engagement during national and global events has become somewhat of an expectation, and brands are certainly not shying away from the opportunity. From major Super Bowl advertisers to local nonprofits, brands of all shapes and sizes are deploying social media “war rooms” this year to maximize engagement during the game.

Of course, simply deciding to tweet along with the Super Bowl does not guarantee you’ll see any sort of return on your investment (ROI). While it can be tempting to just wing it the night of, successful real-time engagement generally requires a good amount of planning. Just ask Anheuser-Busch. The beer giant has had plans in place for months to deploy four Super Bowl social media command centers, with more than 60 staffers expected to take part.

How exactly should a brand approach the planning process in order to ensure a strong ROI? These tips should help.

1.Know your audience.

With so many brands engaging on social during the big game, the chances of your post landing on any of those “Best Super Bowl Brand Tweets” lists aren’t stellar. But fear not. While widespread recognition is always a good bonus, remember that one of the most valuable benefits of social engagement is increased affinity, trust and awareness among your customers and prospects. That’s the true ROI. Defining your audience upfront will help you deliver the right message to the right audience and, in doing so, drive the engagement that matters.

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 2. Use predictive analytics.

Once you know your audience, the next step is figuring out the best way to capture their attention during what’s bound to be a very noisy conversation. Here’s where history can prove useful. Look at your competitors’ tweets from previous Super Bowls and other national events. What resonated? What fell flat? Research and predictive analytics can also help you determine more about your audiences’ interests as well as the influencers they follow. This information is valuable because it can help you shape the content of your posts and determine who is most strategic for you to engage with during the Super Bowl. Together, research and predictive analytics can guide your process and help you determine what will resonate most effectively.

3. Know what you’re listening for.

From big plays in the game to other brands’ commercials to your followers’ real-time banter, there will be ample opportunity to respond and engage throughout the evening. Before you head to your war room, take note of the types of moments and commentary that you want to ensure your brand is tuned into. For example, since consumers love a little brand-to-brand engagement (remember when Coors Light responded to J.C. Penny’s drunk-seeming tweets last year?), note which competitors, companies and campaigns you want to keep an eye on during the night.  These will only be guidelines—you never know what might happen at the Super Bowl—but having a basic plan in place means you can be more focused, targeted and efficient with your engagements.

4.  Determine your line of command.

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Social media war rooms are all about speed. When you’re responding in real time, letting two minutes go by can be detrimental, even for the cleverest of posts. To ensure that you can respond swiftly, have a system in place before the game.  Gather your social strategists, designers, legal team, agency and copywriters and agree ahead of time on how a tweet will move from concept to primetime as quickly as possible. This may mean setting guidelines upfront in terms of tone and content and creating design and copy templates beforehand.

5. Remember that Twitter is not an island.

When planning your war room approach, focus on how Twitter engagement can support, work in concert with and even inform the other aspects of your campaign, whether you have a TV commercial, a YouTube spot or just an email campaign.  Your customers are watching all of these channels at once—phone in hand, laptop on the coffee table, TV on—and you need to engage with them across screens in a way that feels cohesive and authentic.

Of course, since we’re talking about real-time social engagement here, you can’t plan out every detail and tweet. But strategizing ahead of time will actually enable you to be more flexible, creative and speedy in the moment, so that you can take full advantage of those unexpected Super Bowl moments (blackouts, drunk J.C. Penny tweets—that kind of stuff). By deploying an insight-based, customer-driven approach that works across channels, marketers can truly be strategic with their war rooms and focus on driving returns rather than simply creating buzz.

Crimson Hexagon provides social media intelligence, monitoring, analysis and analytics. 

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